Here is a question that I get often about back pain (and other joint pain).
DO I NEED TO SEE MY DOCTOR FIRST?
In most states including Charlotte, NC, the short answer is NO! You have “direct access” to your physical therapist meaning you do not need a referral from a physician to see your physical therapist.
Your physical therapist will ask you some medical screening questions to make sure your back pain, knee pain, shoulder pain, or other joint pain is musculoskeletal related and that physical therapy is appropriate for you. There are times when your physical therapist may refer you to see a doctor before initiating treatment. Those times are:
- If you have been involved in a trauma where a fracture is possible you need an x-ray
- If you have lost control of your bowel or bladder
- If you are numb in the groin area
- If you have drop foot
These are signs of fracture, tumors, chord or nerve compression.
Your physical therapist may also refer you to a physician if they have treated your musculoskeletal condition (back pain, sciatica, neck pain, shoulder pain, knee pain, etc.) for several visits, have changed their treatment approach but are not seeing a positive change in your pain.
Seeing your physical therapist first means quicker treatment and quicker relief. Historically, when patients see their physicians first their treatment goes like this:
- They are prescribed anti-inflammatories, muscle relaxers and pain medications (including opioids)
- They may get an unnecessary x-ray
- They may get an unnecessary MRI
- Treatment is delayed for 90 days or more.
A study in 2015 showed that patients who initiate physical therapy within 14 days of back pain had less imaging and 60% less costs compared to those whose PT was delayed 90 days.
If you have any questions about your pain or if physical therapy might be right for you, please call Pin Point Physical Therapy at 704-612-6797 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m happy to answer your questions.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ginger Morrissey
The longer people are sedentary the more fear they have of moving. Ginger is a Fellow of Orthopedics and has helped countless numbers of people with back pain return to their normal lifestyle including tennis and golf.
Ginger Morrissey is one of Charlotte’s leading physical therapists who helps adults and athletes return to the activities they love without pain medications, injections, or surgery. She graduated with a degree in Physical Therapy from The University of Oklahoma in 1997. She has completed numerous post-graduate courses in manual therapy. She completed a Fellowship in Manual Orthopedics in 2008 with emphasis on the Spine so that she could provide a more advanced service for helping people return to normal movement. In 2014, she completed her certification in Trigger Point Dry Needling (CMTPT). This specialized training resulted in her being more thorough and efficient in treating muscles and fascia, the root cause of their back pain. With more than 20 years of experience, she has worked in numerous clinical settings and treated thousands of people with back pain.
In her spare time Ginger enjoys spending time with her family, running, playing tennis, scuba diving and doing things in the great outdoors.